Report: Japan's 84-year-old former empress has heart problem


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TOKYO (AP) — Japan's 84-year-old former Empress Michiko has a heart problem that needs monitoring but can go ahead with a planned trip to the ancient capital of Kyoto with her husband, who recently abdicated as emperor, media reports said Monday.

Palace officials said doctors found Michiko has heart valve abnormalities and an irregular pulse, NHK public television said.

Doctors discovered the abnormalities in a heart examination on Saturday after a regular health checkup showed an increase in cardiac hormones.

Michiko has experienced shortness of breath after her daily morning walks since earlier this year, NHK said. She also experienced chest pains in 2015 and received a coronary artery scan that detected symptoms of insufficient blood flow to the heart.

However, it said she will accompany her husband Akihito to Kyoto as planned, as part of his abdication rituals. She also visited Akihito's grandfather's tomb in western Tokyo last Thursday as planned.

After returning from Kyoto, Michiko will receive scheduled cataract operations, one side at a time on June 16 and 23, NHK said.

Imperial Household Agency officials were not available for comment late Monday.

Akihito, 85, abdicated on April 30, becoming the first to do so in 200 years, and now holds the title of emperor emeritus. Akihito's elder son, Naruhito, acceded to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1.

Michiko is the first commoner to marry an emperor in modern Japanese history. Catholic-educated Michiko Shoda and Akihito married on April 10, 1959, after what is known as their tennis court romance.

They broke with tradition and brought many changes to the monarchy. They chose to raise their three children themselves, spoke far more often to the public, and made amends for war victims in and outside the country.

Unlike their predecessors, Akihito and Michiko are almost always seen together — Akihito kneeling beside Michiko speaking intimately with disaster victims at evacuation centers, or to residents at nursing homes. Their close interactions have won them a deep affection among Japanese.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

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